washington – The Navy’s next amphibious assault ship will be named after the city of Fallujah, which saw the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War when U.S. Marines engaged in deadly door-to-door battles with al-Qaeda extremists.
Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro said the battleship Fallujah would commemorate the so-called “first and second Battles of Fallujah,” following the tradition of naming attack ships after Marine Corps battles or other early sailing ships and aircraft carriers.
“It is an honor to honor the memory of the Marines, Soldiers and coalition partners who fought valiantly and lost their lives in two battles in Fallujah,” del Toro said in a statement Tuesday.
The city, about 45 miles (65 kilometers) from Baghdad, became a base for an anti-government Sunni insurgency after the 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. Al Qaeda militants who rose up against the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad in 2004 fought two bloody battles with U.S. forces in Fallujah, killing more than 100 Americans and injuring more than 1,000.
The first battle in Fallujah was sparked by an increase in violence in the city, including the deaths of five U.S. soldiers killed by roadside bombs and four security contractors working for the U.S. company Blackwater. Contractors were killed and their bodies burned. Two of the bodies were hung from the bridge, and photos of the massacre were distributed to the media.
In response, the Marines fought for days for control of the city, and at one point, a Marine vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired from the mosque, injuring five Marines. U.S. troops gathered at the mosque, eventually firing a Hellfire missile at the base of its minaret, and an F-16 fighter jet dropped a 500-pound bomb, killing dozens and fueling anti-American sentiment. Within a month, however, U.S. forces withdrew from Fallujah and handed over control to local Iraqi security forces.
The second battle took place in November 2004 and was a massive air and ground offensive by the US military alongside British and Iraqi forces to take control of the city. Dozens of Americans and hundreds of militants were killed, and large parts of the city were damaged and destroyed.
An Iraqi journalist who was in the city at the time told the Associated Press that “people were afraid to even look out the windows because of the snipers.” … Americans were shooting at anything that moved. “
Gen. Richard Myers, now retired but then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “hundreds and thousands of insurgents” had been killed and captured. He said the Fallujah offensive was “very, very successful” but would not end the insurgency.
“If anyone thinks that Fallujah is going to be the end of the Iraqi insurgency, that was never the goal, nor was it our intention, nor was it even our hope,” he said.
A decade later, the city is once again a deadly hotbed of insurgency as the Islamic State group sweeps into control and begins a dramatic blitzkrieg across Iraq. It took nearly two years, and the re-entry of U.S. troops into the country to rebuild Iraqi forces, to retake the city, a crucial step in driving Islamic State militants out of major Iraqi cities.
In addition to announcing the ship’s name, del Toro said the future sponsor of the Fallujah will be Donna Berger, wife of Marine Corps Commander General David Berger.
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